NEW ORLEANS - The Pelicans (18-25) are trying to end a tumultuous month on a positive note, winning back-to-back games and three of their past four. It's a small step in the right direction for a young team learning how to win in crunch time.
"To be able to prove to ourselves that we can finish late in games, it's been big," point guard Brian Roberts said.
The recent spark has developed despite injuries to key players Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith, showing just how resilient the short-handed squad has been.
"It's just all about us getting chemistry and learning each other's games," shooting guard Eric Gordon said. "You got a lot of guys playing different roles, and it's about all of us adjusting, and really learning how to overcome wins down the stretch."
While the All-Star play of Anthony Davis (20.1 points per game, 10-5 rebounds per game, 3.1 blocks per game) and all those injuries have dominated the headlines, the complementary play of the Pelicans' bench has also been crucial to the recent wins. In Sunday's 100-92 victory over the magic, the Pels' reserves outscored Orlando's 42-8, and in the past three games, the Pelicans' bench has averaged 48 points per game.
"You know, when our numbers are already slim as it is, you know we need production from everybody," Roberts said. "I think we've adopted that strength in numbers, even though we don't have full numbers. We just kinda been balanced and sharing the ball, and guys have been stepping up."
Gordon added, "A good, collective effort. Our bench has been really good, Austin has played well. A couple other guys that are doing things that they're not used to doing. It's all about us being consistent and playing like an overall team."
Leading the charge from the bench is super-sub Tyreke Evans (13.1 points per game), but coach Monty Williams still wants another consistent scoring threat.
"In a perfect world, you'd like to get two guys who can give you 12-15 points off your bench every single night," Williams said. "Especially with the minutes the way they are being spread out, a lot of guys are gonna have a chance to play, so you hope that guys step up."
The Pelicans face the Cavaliers (16-28) in Cleveland Tuesday night before a Wednesday night away game at the Timberwolves (21-22).